The investing landscape has changed dramatically over the last two years. We've seen new technology drop commissions and expenses substantially, new tools helping investors, and a whole lot of competition to stay at the top of the pack.
So, with all these changes, who do you (the readers) think is the best online stock broker in 2018? If you're not already part of our Facebook group, join here.
We break down the top five online stock brokers chosen by readers, along with some notable mentions, especially for certain use cases. We also highlight any bonus offers these companies currently have. If you're not using a top online stock broker yet, now is the time to make the switch!
Vanguard is the clear winner this year, and it makes sense for a variety of reasons. Vanguard is consistently the low price index fund leader - and when you invest directly with Vanguard, you can potentially avoid commissions and fees on your mutual fund purchases.
Furthermore, Vanguard offers the full range of account types, from IRAs to Solo 401k's, to 529 plans and HSAs.
The big drawback to Vanguard (if it even matters to you) is that it can be expensive to invest outside of Vanguard funds if you want to. Also, if you dive into the details on some of their products (like their Solo 401k), it's not always the most robust available. They also don't have the cleanest investing app.
Vanguard Bonus Offers: Vanguard doesn't run any bonus offers... maybe they're just too good for that they don't need to entice you?
Fidelity is always a top pick when it comes to choosing a full service brokerage. They have a large amount of commission-free funds, low expenses, and a full range of account types to choose from. Even if you don't invest with a commission free fund, they have very low commissions.
Furthermore, many people are familiar with Fidelity because (along with Vanguard) they are one of the largest 401k plan administrators. That's why we name Fidelity our Best Online Broker for Retirement.
Plus, unlike Vanguard, Fidelity has offices nationwide. While almost everything can be done online, being able to easily go to an office can be helpful every now and then.
The only real drawback with Fidelity is that commission to invest. Depending on what you want to invest it, it can be more expensive than at Vanguard.
Fidelity Bonus Offers: Get 300 commission-free trades and 2 years to use them.
Robinhood has always been a controversial online broker. However, our readers rated it very highly, and it does have one huge positive - it's free.
Robinhood offers truly commission free trading. Like $0. Nada. Nothing.
Also, Robinhood just announced they are going to start supporting cryptocurrency trading on their platform.
However, it does come with some drawbacks. The biggest is that they don't support many popular account types - specifically IRAs, but also joint accounts, trusts, and custodial accounts.
Some other drawbacks include lack of desktop support (said to be coming soon), no connectivity to major investment tracking apps like Personal Capital or Quicken, and dealing with getting your documents and statements.
However, it's free!
Robinhood Bonus Offers: Get a random share of stock when you refer a friend.
4. TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is another company that's consistently at the top of the pack. We love TD Ameritrade's app, which we named as one of the best free investing apps.
TD Ameritrade distinguishes itself by offering some of the best commission free ETFs available (SPDRs), as well as having one of the best options trading platforms.
The biggest drawback of TD Ameritrade is that their commissions are a bit higher than the lowest available. They do make up for that a little with their commission free ETFs, but if you're not investing in one of those, you will pay more.
TD Ameritrade Bonus Offers: Trade free for 90 days and get up to $600.
5. Charles Schwab
Schwab has been an honorable mention on our lists before, but this year they made it into the top 5!
What people love about Schwab is their low cost selection of ETFs, and extremely low expense ratio mutual funds. Furthermore, they have no purchase minimums for their mutual funds, so you can build an extremely low cost portfolio at Schwab using popular funds like Schwab Total Stock Market Index (SWTSX).
Schwab also has low stock trading commissions compared to other companies on this list.
The biggest drawback to Schwab is that most of their accounts have a $1,000 account minimum. There are ways to waive the minimum, but that's still annoying, especially for new investors. Their non-Schwab mutual fund commission is also one of the highest we've seen.
Schwab Bonus Offers: Earn up to 500 commission free trades.
These honorable mentions didn't make the top 5, but they are really worth a look if you want someone else to do the work for you when it comes to investing and setting up your portfolio.
M1 Finance is a new comer to this list but they've been doing some amazing things with low cost investing. In fact, late last year they announced the moved to a free pricing model as well.
What makes M1 Finance so great is that it allows you to setup a low cost portfolio for free. This portfolio can be one of their automated portfolios, or you could setup one of your own with almost any combination of ETFs and stocks. And for stocks, that includes investing in fractional shares as well.
Once you setup your portfolio, M1 helps you automatically rebalance when you deposit more money into your account. And when you sell, it also helps you rebalance by selling overweight items in your portfolio.
The only real drawback to M1 is that it doesn't consider all of your portfolio - you need to do that. Also, it doesn't connect with platforms like Quicken or Personal Capital. You need to use their dashboard to track your portfolio.
M1 Finance Bonus Offer: They're already free!
Betterment is a bit different that almost all the rest of these because they are a true robo-advisor. However, for those people that don't want to invest themselves, Betterment is a top notch choice for where to invest.
What makes Betterment great is that it's so easy to get started investing. You simply open an account, answer a few questions, and make a deposit. Betterment takes care of the rest.
The biggest drawback is cost. Their pricing is very transparent - 0.25% for their basic digital plan, and 0.40% for their premium plan. However, the more you have under management with them, the more it will cost you. $50,000 will cost you $125 per year in management fees.
However, for those that don't want to ever think about their portfolio, a small, transparent management fee might be the way to go.
Betterment Bonus Offer: Up to 1 year managed free.